I sat, curled up on the floor breathing slowly in and out. I was trying to hold back tears, trying not to draw attention to myself but the pain broke through every thought. I had already taken prescription strength ibuprofen and another behind the counter pain killer. I was wearing lidocaine patches but, like clockwork, my monthly torment had returned. This time, it struck while I was at the office.
For some women, their monthly visit from Aunt Flo is nothing more than an inconvenience. For others, like myself, it is 9-10 days of torment every, single month. I spend at least two days fighting tear and nausea from the extreme pain. My sleep is disturbed by 2am wake-up calls in the form of debilitating cramps. My work performance is greatly diminished.
Italy is proposing a law that would grant women up to 3 days of paid menstrual leave per month. There are many mixed feelings on the topic. Women are not in control of their cycle, it is simply a part of life they learn to cope with. For those who experience severe pain, it seems unfair to ask them to take a personal day.
In spite of this, I don’t think this law would have a positive impact for women in the workplace.
In the workplace, women already face the disadvantage of years of programming on a woman’s role in the office. While we have made great strides and men and women are more aware of their prejudices, this would be a step back. We would again become the weaker sex, unable to handle our workload. Women strive for equality, as they should, but taking up to 3 days a month for a women-specific issues would open a door for us to be criticized for our ability to perform at the same level of our male counterparts.
Taking several days a month would leave us behind. While many women are regular, many are not be able to predict when they would need to take this monthly leave causing further trouble to their company and clients. We would miss meetings would be an additional burden to our coworkers and managers as they would need to fill us in. Canceling meetings with clients would reflect poorly on ourselves and our company. Everyone has the occasional sick day, but planning on regular, yet not entirely predictable, sick days every month would not be wise. This setback for the workplace every month would open the door to poorer work performance all around because of the need to play catch-up unpredictably every month.
Thankfully, I am very fortunate. I have a flexible job and an understanding boss. If I am not feeling well, I often have the option to work remotely to stay up to date on what needs to be done. I realize this is not a luxury most have but it seems like the only realistic way forward to truly empower women to handle the demands of their body while still being competitive employees. If employers truly want to equip women to handle this issue, they would empower their employees, both male and female, to occasionally be able to work from home when the situation demands it. Allowing this option to both sexes would stop the gender divide from furthering and would strengthen their employees.